"And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." (Acts 2:42)
OK, I admit it. I don’t like it when Acts 2:42 is presented as the mission statement of the church. Sometimes it sounds to me like Acts must have ended with that verse. Like Pentecost happened and 3K souls were added to the church and then — BOOM! — hangout and Bible study time started!
This seems shortsighted to me. Jesus has told them to go from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). They needed to leave. Jerusalem wasn’t their final destination. They were to be a moving people with a spreading message. In fact, it seems like a tension hit the church as they wrestled with life beyond Jerusalem. The apostles didn’t leave, at least not at first, even after the first waves of persecution hit. Once Peter was called up to Caesarea to preach to Gentiles, the church started realizing that Christianity wasn’t Judaism 2.0. No, Christianity was available for everyone, not just Jews. The Jewish Messiah was the Savior of the Gentile world. It took them a while to embrace the missional aspect of Christ's message.
So yeah, I get a little bugged when Acts 2:42 is held out as the ideal for the church. They weren’t ideal. They needed to move.
Still, at that stage of their development, these were beautiful marks. And, as long as we are moving, going, and doing, these marks are beautiful today. We can’t all sell everything we have and devote ourselves full time to these elements, as many of them did, but we can make these standard in our Christian experience.
Here is what they gave themselves to:
Apostles’ Teaching — They devoted themselves to learning God’s Word, which is what the Apostles taught.
Fellowship — They devoted themselves to caring for each other as they shared in life together.
Breaking of Bread — They devoted themselves to experiences in everyday life together, friends in Christ.
Prayers — They devoted themselves to praying, alone and with others.
How is your life? In what areas might you grow, reprioritize, or shift? I know Acts 2:42 has been a wonderful diagnostic for me over the years, a mirror helping me see how or where some things might need to shift in my life.